Penn State senior Eddie Trejo woke up Thursday morning with another item checked off his graduation bucket list.
He was among more than 300 Penn State students who camped out at Gate A of Beaver Stadium, a tradition known as Nittanyville, the tent city erected outside the stadium before home football games.
By Friday, Nittanyville President Allen Sheffield expects more students to arrive.
“It’s our way to show support for our team,” said Trejo. “It’s one of those campus events you’d be crazy not to be a part of at least once.”
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Students were allowed to set up their tents as early as 11 p.m. Wednesday, when dozens of students took part in the tradition by singing the Penn State fight song and a drum line of students banged on trash cans.
On Thursday morning, students were bleary-eyed, some wanting to catch-up on sleep or homework before heading off to class. Some students were zipped away in their tents, others busted out their laptops with mounds of homework spread throughout their tented quarters, and others were mingling with new neighbors and friends.
Freshman Abigail Conklin, of Maryland, said she is part of seven who were camping together. She said one person must be with the tent at all times as she planned a schedule around classes and other extracurricular activities.
“Penn State football is a staple to this community,” Conklin said.
“After the Sandusky stuff the last couple years, we really want to show our support,” added one of Conklin’s tentmates, Andrew Hearn, a freshman from Delaware. “I think even though there was some bad press, everyone is still really proud to be a part of Penn State.”
And while the students prepare for game day, so are those in charge of getting Beaver Stadium ready.
Herb Combs, supervisor of athletic fields, said it takes a large group of Physical Plant and Intercollegiate Athletics employees, along with more than a dozen student workers and six full-time grounds crew, to prepare the field perfectly for game day.
“It’s not like mowing your home lawn, that’s for sure,” Combs said.
He said the grounds crew cuts and paints the grass three times a week. They did on Tuesday and Thursday and will do it once more Friday, Combs said. And it takes a full workday to paint, he added.
When fans attend the first home game of the season at noon Saturday against Eastern Michigan, they won’t just experience the newly painted and cut field, but a slew of other new Beaver Stadium changes that includes enhanced Wi-Fi and a new mobile app.
Assistant Athletic Director/Communications Jeff Nelson said the PSU GameDay App allows users to find parking, the nearest bathroom, post their own photos and follow live stats. Users can also find player bios, view the upcoming schedule and watch exclusive Penn State videos while inside Beaver Stadium.
In addition, Nelson said other changes include guest relations booths at most stadium gates and on the north deck concourse to assist fans during the game. There will also be opportunities to rent game day seat cushions at most gates.
Nelson said the athletic department doesn’t expect a sellout crowd, but Penn State fans are calling the first home game of the year a holiday.
“All I got to say is ‘We are!’ and I think everyone else knows the rest,” said junior Marc Scholl. “It’s like the first real holiday of the school year. That’s the impact of Penn State football around here.”
At Sam’s Club on Benner Pike, RVs began filing in starting as early as Wednesday morning.
By Thursday, a parking lot to the south of the Sam’s Club facility was packed with Penn State fans from all along the Eastern Seaboard.
Paul and Judy Rosenblatt drove in from Maryland on Thursday morning. For more than two decades, they’ve camped out in their RV before the first home football game of the season.
As Penn State alums from the late ‘60s with a long history of blue and white in their blood, the couple said it’s a particularly special getaway for them.
“It usually lands around our anniversary, so this is how we celebrate it,” said Paul Rosenblatt. “A win always makes the trip even better.”
AccuWeather predicts the weather will be sunny on Saturday with highs in the mid 70s.